My selection this week is a third pick of Frank Gruber’s Johnny Fletcher mystery series. First published in 1956, it is another in the adventures of Johnny and his partner, Sam Cragg, con men and part time detectives.
As usual, Johnny and Sam are on the verge of being thrown out of their hotel room for being behind on the rent. Sam wakes up to find Johnny and his suit gone. Johnny had hocked it to get a few dollars to pay the rent. At the same time, he finds a record lying on the bed, one of aluminum, a master.
Johnny returns home to find the young woman in the room directly across the alley from theirs has been murdered. Sam is complaining because he can’t go out in his underwear and the cops are interested in the pair because they are in the vicinity of another death.
You see it happens to them all to frequently and Johnny has to solve the crime for their own preservation. In order to get Sam out of the hotel room, he has to pull off a most complex check kiting scheme: opening an account with their last funds from the suit hock, getting a few checks and going around buying things with checks, hocking them for as much as they can get, opening more accounts, getting the checks, buying and hocking more, until he has a couple of thousand dollars in checks floating around a number of banks after an initial outlay of only about twenty bucks.You couldn’t pull off a deal like that in these days of computers.
Now he has to come up with some cash to cover all those checks before they can get back to the various banks and put the cops on their trail. First they check out their record master and learn it’s the final recording of an artist recently killed in a plane crash. There are two versions of the same song on the master and on the second they can hear some whispered cursing.
Upon learning that the murdered woman had recently recorded a song for a local recording company, lights go off. Johnny smells money and finagles his way into a meeting with company execs, intimating he has the master. Immediately, he is offered $5,000 in cash.
He holds them off for two reasons: more money and solving the murder of the young woman. Along the way, there is a sister and a fiance of the murder victim who holds a majority interest in the recording company, which is about to file for bankruptcy because of the missing recording.
Everyone of these mysteries I read(only five of sixteen) they seem to get better. I can’t wait to find more and I recommend this one for any crime/mystery fan.